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IU Student’s Death Draws Attention To Indiana Lifeline Law

Underage drinkers in Indiana can seek medical help for an injured or incapacitated friend without fear of prosecution.

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Photo: Aubrey Sun (Flickr)

Republican State Senator Jim Merritt says he believes Indiana's Lifeline Law has saved lives.

A toxicology report is pending in the death of 19-year-old Indiana University student Rachael Fiege of Zionsville.

Fiege sustained a head injury after falling down a flight of stairs at an off-campus party early Friday morning and died Saturday. Bloomington Police say Fiege’s friends waited about six hours to call for help. There was alcohol at the house, but it’s unclear what role — if any — it played in her death.

Still, as students head back to campus, the incident is drawing attention to Indiana’s Lifeline Law. Republican State Senator Jim Merritt authored legislation two years ago that offers underage drinkers immunity if they seek help for an injured or incapacitated friend.

“There’s always a new 17-year-old that hits campus — or 18-year-old — and you have to start the learning process, or education process, all over again,” says Merritt. “I believe it’s saved lives and will save lives in the future.”

Dawn Finbloom’s 18-year-old son Brett died last year after drinking too much at a party, just days before heading off to college.

“We just know there was a delay,” says Finbloom, who says her son’s friends were scared to call 911. “Time is so critical.”

Fiege’s friends told police they knew about Indiana’s Lifeline Law but did not realize she was seriously hurt.

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